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Roller Coasters: Flinn STEM Design Challenge™

By: The Flinn Staff

In the Roller Coasters—Flinn STEM Design Challenge™ for physical science and physics, determine how changing the release height and mass of a ball affects the distance the ball will travel on a straight track with a single rise.

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Roller coasters are a classic amusement park ride. They also provide the opportunity to learn about conservation of energy, acceleration, friction, and engineering design in a fun and exciting way! In the introductory activity, students determine how changing the release height and mass of a ball affects the distance the ball will travel on a straight track with a single rise. Students apply their findings and knowledge of conservation of energy to design a roller coaster with specific criteria and constraints, using only the materials provided, to create a thrilling yet safe ride! This STEM Design Challenge is sure to add excitement to your classroom! Complete for 30 students working in groups of three. Support stand and ring clamp are recommended for each group and available separately.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations and designing solutions
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
MS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
MS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
HS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
HS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
HS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models
Structure and function

Performance Expectations

HS-ETS1-2. Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.